Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Espanyol Preview: The knockout stages are here
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Conor Coady of Wolverhampton Wanderers jumps on his team-mates as they celebrate Raul Jimenez scoring his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool FC at Molineux on January 23, 2020 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Wolverhampton Wanderers come into this match having struggled recently to win games, only winning one in their last nine, and only scoring six goals in that time.

Wolves fans will be hoping that their main man Raúl Jimenez can step up to the plate and re-discover his scoring form in this tie. Having played out two nil-nil draws in the last two games, against Manchester United and Leicester City, Wolves fans will be hoping to see some goals and a win on Thursday night at Molineux under the lights.

Last time out against Leicester City, Wolves were hampered by VAR once again this season. They had a goal ruled out for a close offside against Portuguese winger Pedro Neto when receiving a pass from Diogo Jota from a corner.

Wolves showed strong signs that they could break top sides down, as they created two or three clear-cut chances, but they could not put them away.

As for Group H winners Espanyol, they come into this game in relatively good form after struggling this season and currently being bottom of La Liga in Spain. Coming off the back of a good draw against fifth place Sevilla, the Spaniards will have gained confidence and their fans will be hopeful of picking up a positive result away from home.

  • The Group Stages

During the group stages of the Europa League, Wolverhampton Wanderers went toe-to-toe with some of the biggest teams in Europe.

They travelled to Turkey to face Besiktas, Portugal to face S.C. Braga and also Slovakia to play Slovan Bratislava. Wolves came out of the group in second, having won four out of their six games, only dropping points to Braga, who went unbeaten throughout the group.

Wolves’ number nine Raúl Jimenez racked up three goals and two assists in the five games that he played in, and was Wolves’ main threat going forward. His most important goal came during the group stages at home against Slovan Bratislava in the 92nd minute, which won Wolves the game 1–0.

Espanyol also had great success in the group stages of the Europa League as they topped their group, only losing one game throughout. Having only conceded four goals in their six group games, they showed form that they hadn’t been able to find in the league.

The main threats for the Spanish side are attackers Facundo Ferreyra and Wu Lei who have eight goals and seven goals respectively this season in all competitions.

  • VAR will be used

As confirmed earlier in the week, VAR will be in use at The Molineux on Thursday night. This is not going to excite Wolves fans who have seen four goals ruled out from VAR in the Premier League this season, costing them a total of nine points.

UEFA referees committee chairman Roberto Rosetti said in a statement from UEFA that “VAR has been successful in the Champions League this season and it has paved the way for its use in the Europa League.”

“We believe that VAR is a crucial project for football as it will provide vital help for referees to take correct decisions in these important matches.”

  • Team News

In terms of team news, Wolves are set to be back to full strength for this game with the expected return of Adama Traore to the first team. Adama was left out of the starting XI against Leicester City due to suffering a dislocated shoulder against Manchester United, but he did appear briefly off the bench.

However, Wolves will be without young fullback Ruben Vinagre for this match and for the foreseeable future. The Portuguese left-back is still out with a hamstring injury that he picked up in the FA Cup clash with Manchester United in January.

As for Espanyol, changes are expected for this game as they face 15th place Real Valladolid on Sunday in the league, so they will have half an eye on that important game.

Espanyol have also been hit with injuries of their own coming into this fixture. The Catalonian side will be without Sebastian Corchia (knee), Raúl de Tomás (groin), David López (calf), and also Víctor Campuzano (groin).

New signing Raúl de Tomás, who signed from Benfica in January for a club record fee of £18.5 million will be a big miss for the visitors. The Spaniard has scored four goals in his first four games in La Liga.

It has also been confirmed that Marc Roca will not travel with the Espanyol squad to Wolverhampton. This is most likely due to the upcoming fixture that Espanyol have in the league, which seems like a priority.

  • Predicted Line-Ups

Wolves XI: Ruí Patricio, Matt Doherty, Romain Saïss, Conor Coady, Willy Boly, Jonny Otto, Rúben Neves, João Moutinho, Jota, Jiménez, Adama.

Espanyol XI: Diego López, Javi López, Fernando Calero, Leandro Cabrera, Adrià Pedrosa, Ander Iturraspe, Sergi DarderOscar Melendo, Adrián Embarba, Jonathan Calleri, Ferreyra.